DIYARBAKIR, (Reuters) – Nine people were killed in separate clashes overnight, including six members of Turkey’s security forces and three Kurdish militants, officials said on Saturday, as violence showed little sign of a letup in Turkey’s troubled southeast.
Three special forces police officers and three Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants were killed when gunbattles broke out along a highway in the remote province of Hakkari bordering Iraq and Iran, security sources said.
In a separate incident in Bitlis province northwest of Hakkari, three state-backed Kurdish village guards were killed when clashes broke out between PKK militants around 30 km from the provincial capital, the governor’s office said.
One Turkish soldier and three village guards were also wounded. Village guards are part of a local state-backed force that operates in towns and villages in eastern and southeastern Turkey where PKK militants are most active.
The PKK, considered a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, has carried out a spate of attacks on military targets in the past few months, stepping up a 28-year insurgency.
Fighting between the army and the PKK intensified over the summer, a development which Ankara sees as linked to the chaos in neighbouring Syria. Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has accused Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad of arming the PKK militants.
The fighting in Turkey over the past months was some of the heaviest since the PKK took up arms against the state in 1984. More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict.